Rumour Mill: Ajer contract | Naismith ‘open to permanent Hearts deal’ | Celtic eye Majer

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Scottish football gossip: Celtic set to offer Ajer a new bumper contract; Steven Naismith open to staying at Hearts and Neil Lennon has his say on sectarianism in the Scottish game

Celtic set to offer Ajer new bumper deal

Kristoffer Ajer could strike a new deal with Celtic. Picture: SNS Group

Kristoffer Ajer could strike a new deal with Celtic. Picture: SNS Group

Celtic are set to offer Kristoffer Ajer a bumper new deal, with negotiations taking place between Peter Lawwell and Ajer’s agent Tore Pedersen.

The 19-year-old Norwegian has a deal until 2020 but Brendan Rodgers is understood to be hoping Ajer will commit to the Hoops.

Sent on loan to Kilmarnock last season, Ajer has become a firsst-choice centre back under Rodgers and earned his first call-up to the Norway senior squad earlier this week. (Scottish Sun)

Naismith ‘open to permanent switch’

Steven Naismith would happily convert his Hearts loan into a permanent transfer if Norwich City let him leave Carrow Road.

The striker revealed that he is open to an extended stay if both clubs can reach a deal. Norwich have him contracted until summer 2019 but he is surplus to requirements, hence a five-month loan move to Hearts in January.

Much depends on Norwich, who could look to recoup some of the £8.5m spent on the striker but Naismith is keen to explore the possibility of joining Hearts permanently. (Evening News)

Hoops face fight to land Majer

Celtic could make a move in the summer for Croatian midfielder Lovro Majer, but face a battle to land the 20-year-old amid interest from Newcastle and Chelsea.

The NK Lokomotiva youngster has already scored ten goals and notched five assists in 25 appearances in the Croatian top flight, and could be available for around £1.5 million during the summer. (Daily Record)

Lenny: Sectarianism ‘getting better’

Neil Lennon has described sectarianism as a “form of racism” following claims instances of religious prejudice are being swept under the carpet again in Scottish football.

Match delegates employed by the Scottish Professional Football League are reported to be dismayed by the lack of action after citing incidents during matches.

But Lennon believes the problem is improving, saying: “In my opinion it’s got better but maybe that’s because I’m out of the Glasgow goldfish bowl. But I do think clubs are getting better at trying to deter it.” (The Scotsman)

Levein hopeful over Berra scan

Hearts captain Christophe Berra has undergone a scan to determine whether he needs surgery on his injured ankle. Tynecastle officials hope to alleviate the problem without an operation and were today anxiously awaiting the results.

Berra, 33, has taken pain-killing injections to play in Hearts’ last two matches against Motherwell and Hibs after going over on his ankle in training.

The injury is not subsiding and manager Craig Levein is keeping his fingers crossed his centre-back will not require surgery. (Evening News)

Candeias extends Ibrox stay

Daniel Candeias is the latest player to be rewarded with a new Rangers contract after extending his Ibrox deal until 2020.

The Portuguese winger signed a two-year agreement after arriving from Benfica for a £700,000 fee last summer.

But his impressive performances for Graeme Murty’s men in that period have already earned him an upgrade to his terms. (The Scotsman)

Lennon confirms Bain interest

Neil Lennon has admitted that Hibs are still interested in signing Scott Bain on a permanent basis. Bain joined Hibs on loan but quickly moved to Celtic on a similar deal, with Simon Murray going to Dundee and Scott Allan going to Hibs.

But despite Bain’s winning debut for Celtic in the Old Firm clash on Sunday, Lennon is still hopeful of landing the ‘keeper in the summer.

“There is an interest and we made sure Scotty realised that before he left. Even in the short time he was here we were very impressed,” said Lennon. Hearts are also thought to be keen on the ex-Alloa No 1. (The Scotsman)

You paid for cockiness, Boyd tells Rangers

Picking themselves up for the Scottish Cup semi-final next month will be a tough task for Rangers after their pre-match “cockiness” backfired against Celtic in agonising circumstances last weekend, Tom Boyd has claimed.

Boyd feels Graeme Murty dug a hole for his team by revealing they had cheered being paired with Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final.

“The game on Sunday was damaging and there are a few reasons for that... there was the cockiness beforehand, and the cheering from their dressing room after they’d been drawn against the champions in the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup,” said Boyd. (The Scotsman)

Woodman ‘doesn’t practice penalties’

Given his remarkable track record of saving penalty kicks at crucial times, you might expect Freddie Woodman to have developed a finely honed technique when it comes to facing an opponent from 12 yards.

But the man whose heroics took Aberdeen into the semi-finals of the Scottish Cup doesn’t believe there is any form of preparation which can aid a goalkeeper for the kind of situation he faced at Rugby Park.

“I don’t practice penalties. If anything, goalkeepers hate them because outfield players always want to take them in training. But it does my head in, to be honest, because it’s just diving about all the time,” he said. (The Scotsman)